In today’s world more and more senior couples are comprised of a husband, father to one set of children, and a wife, mother to another set of children. Although a few of these couples have executed pre-nuptial agreements, most have not. This is not a problem until one of the seniors heads down the path of hospital/rehab/home health/nursing home. At that point, the fact that family ties do not always bind the kids can become a serious issue.
How the law treats ownership of assets, accounts, and real estate varies widely depending on little tiny details that are only found by reviewing actual title documents, signature cards, account opening contracts and real estate deeds. Moreover, powers of attorney, wills, and other instruments done decades ago may give rights to people long gone, and to people without concern for the spouse of the afflicted parent. The approach must be comprehensive. Powers of attorney, for instance, are not automatically revoked upon re-marriage or upon the issuance of a new Power of Attorney. Trust beneficiaries do not necessarily change because there is a new spouse.
The moral to the story is that when you enter into a late life marriage it is incredibly important to see a competent Elder Law Attorney before you marry in order to insure that all of your documents, powers, trusts and estates are in good order. We also recommend that all seniors entering new marriages actually meet with both set of heirs to explain how they have arranged their estates and what their goals and intentions are as the new couple ages together.